From the SOCOM II to the Super Match, very few rifles are able to cover the versatility of the M1A. If you are looking for a rifle for close to medium range, you are covered with the scout rifles. If you ache for distance, the match and loaded models are the answer. Of course, you would need the best scope for M1A rifles of that type to maximize your shooting range.
The first question you will need to answer is what type of M1A do you want and what role would you like it to fill? Are you looking for a setup for close range or even CQB? Or do you want to push that 800 yard limit of the .308 cartridge? For this article, we will be focused more on a medium to long range option.
If you have decided that is the role you want for your M1A and have a suitable rifle, we can help! The larger models will be your best bet and are fine rifles! If not for being such a beast to carry, it may still be a battle rifle for our military. Instead, it has been relegated to some sniper setups and designated marksman rifles. A role it excels at!
Too busy to read? Here are our picks for M1A Scope
The Buying Guide for M1A Scope
With a proper scope and some skill, a Super Match or even a Loaded model can give you a fighting chance at a 1000 yard shot. Maybe you don’t need that much. If you are looking for a scout rifle with more moderate magnification. This is a part of the process for narrowing down your choice.
The following features will continue through the process of defining the best M1a scope for you.
What Magnification do you need?
The whole reason to have a scope is to make targets appear larger to narrow down your point of impact. This is likely the number one factor you are considering in an optic and the most important for your satisfaction. Just don’t overlook all else to get a powerful optic, you will regret it.
Most military scoped rifles are a fixed 10 power and magnification around that range is a perfect starting point. With a 10 power scope, you should easily be able to hit targets at 500 yards, even with a scout rifle. The most common mistake is to go with too much magnification off the bat.
This is not to insinuate that there is no place for scopes in the 20x range for an M1A. Being a .308 able to reach out to 800+ yards, there is room for a long range scope for M1A rifles. Scopes for M1A loaded rifles or better can be more powerful if you want to achieve those ranges.
While a scout scope will generally benefit from lower powered optics, scopes with a zoom magnification can provide a good balance. They can moderate their power but still give you distance for long-range shots. This works well for both scout and higher end M1As as well. Consider it the best of both worlds.
Without a zoom magnification and a low end of less than 10x, you will have no short range shooting capability. For scout rifles, I prefer something in the 4 or 5x range for short work. You can get those balanced with a high-end magnification of 14 or 15x.
Even for a 20x scope, you can often get low-end magnifications in the 6 or 8x range. Even a dedicated long range rifle could easily be scaled back to shoot targets in the 100-yard range with ease. While zoom optics are not without their faults, their benefits often outweigh any negatives.
One of those negatives is the focal plane. With first focal plane optics, your reticle zooms with the scope so you can always get an accurate range and bullet drop. Second focal planes are only accurate for those traits at the zoom they were sighted in at.
This is a distinct trade-off. Second focal plane optics are generally far cheaper than a first focal plane or FFP scope.
How Durable and Sturdy is the Scope?
The recoil alone of the M1A dictates that you need a more solid scope. For most shooters, the recoil isn’t all that bad but to an optic that takes that abuse frequently, it’s a different story. This isn’t like a .223 or 5.56mm rifle, it has some kick. Make sure any prospective scope can handle that abuse.
Most scopes are made to be shock resistant to at least a 30 caliber round so you should be good. Just avoid any cheap scopes that may not be able to handle hard knocks. Manufacturers often save money by going light on durability to provide better optical quality. One lens out of alignment and no amount of optical quality is going to matter.
We sometimes drag our rifles into environments that can be pretty challenging. Things like water and dust can quickly render a scope unusable. Getting a scope that is sealed and possibly even purged of oxygen is a very good idea.
A bonus to purged scopes is that the inert atmosphere inside will not hold moisture so you should have no issues with fog or condensation. To save money, some companies will instead use a treatment on the lenses to avoid fog. While sealed is best, having some fog resistance is a huge bonus.
Even on a budget, you should aim to get a scope that is shock, water, and fog resistant. This ensures that your rifle will be usable in any normal environment. Nothing is worse than dragging a 10-pound rifle to your hunting sight only to realize you can’t see through the optics. Or worse, they are damaged.
What Mounts are best for an M1A?
Some models of the M1A will use standard scope rings and bases while others may benefit from a rail mounted system. The Scout and SOCOM have integral rails that do make mounting less of a fuss. Match M1As will often use standard scope mounts as used on older bolt guns.
There is no real, lasting benefit to either method. The rifle will dictate what you use but quality mounts will make either one just as accurate as the other. For match precision, you will want very accurate rings that are often not a part of a one-piece mounting system.
Whatever you do, avoid cheap rings. Nothing is worse on a rifle than investing hundreds into a scope and then mounting it with the cheapest rings you can find. The best rings will be accurately machined, trued, and lapped for a perfect alignment and fit. They may cost more but they are worth the investment.
Getting cheap rings may cause your rifle to have trouble getting a good zero and may even affect its ability to hold that zero. Worse yet, some cheap rings may even damage your scope. Don’t risk your investment to save a buck or two.
Amazingly, there are some rings that are made of plastic. These are not appropriate for a quality rifle setup. Aluminum rings are somewhat better and can get you by but steel is the best choice. They are much stronger than aluminum and the weight difference is little enough that you won’t notice.
What Reticle is Best for an M1A Scope?
Any M1A rifle will benefit from a scope with some form of bullet drop compensation. Whether you go with MOA, MIL, or some proprietary reticle is up to you. If you have a BDC pattern that you are used to using, go with that. If you are new to distance shooting, I prefer MOA to MIL as it usually matches the adjustments on the rifle.
That said, an M1A shoots flat and has minimal drop at closer ranges. For a Scout or SOCOM, you may not even need BDC but it's better to have and not need as the saying goes. Still, you can get by with a standard crosshair for closer ranges if that is your preference on these rifles.
For any long distance rifle, you will want one of the more complicated reticles for sure. A standard crosshair is not going to function well in a rifle that is intended to shoot more than 300 yards. Stick to a BDC reticle for any rifle you want distance from.
If you are still unsure, check what the adjustments are for your chosen optic and get a reticle that matches them. MOA to MOA or MIL to MIL.
Turret or Capped Adjustments?
The final thing you will want to consider is the type of adjustments your optic will have. Since this is intended to be a ranged weapon, you should probably get turret adjustments. They do cost more but enable you to make of the fly adjustments for elevation and windage.
Sure, you can easily knock them out of zero but getting them back to zero is a simple task that takes seconds. This beats capped adjustments which are more suitable for a shorter range hunting rifle.
Best M1A Scope Reviews
Water / Fogproof
Water / Fogproof
Water / Fogproof
1. Vortex Optics Viper PST
What I would consider the best M1A scope for the money when it comes to getting extreme range, the Vortex Viper is a true winner. You can get comparable scopes but they are likely to run well into the thousands of dollars. They will provide very little benefit over the Vortex in the end.
What makes this a great scope is the superb lens quality and extra-low dispersion glass in a Vortex scope. On top of this, they multicoat all glass for the best and brightest images you can get. Top that off with a perfectly matched 50mm objective and you can’t do better.
All the lenses in the Viper are sealed and purged for the best you can get in dust, water, and fog resistance no matter the environment. The O-ring seal also provides over the top shock resistance for a lifetime of use. This is top of the line and will keep you shooting in the worst situations you could imagine!
With turret adjustments and various BDC reticles, this adjustable zoom scope works at a variety of ranges and conditions. The lowest 6x is a great magnification for shorter range shooting less than 100 yards. The 24x max zoom will get you out as far as you have the skill to shoot. When it comes to scopes for an M1A loaded, this is perfect but far too much glass for a Scout or SOCOM.
2. Nikon M-308 SF 4 - 16X42 Riflescope
If we scale back the magnification a little to something a little more appropriate to the less tuned rifles, we get a scope perfect for the Scout. Not that it won’t do a stellar job with a Loaded or Match, it just lacks the high-end magnification. What it doesn’t lack is quality, which should only be expected from Nikon.
A number of shooters are after a long eye relief scope for M1A Scout or SOCOM rifles and the P-308 is perfect for them. That’s taken care of with a constant 4 inches of eye relief no matter where you are on the 4-14x magnification range. That should be sufficient for most any shooter.
Of course, with that extra eye relief, you will need to have a little better optical quality. Nikon has conquered that with their fully multicoated, excellent quality lenses. Of course, these are sealed and purged with outstanding shock resistance for any condition shooting.
The best thing about this scope is that the turret adjustments and BDC reticle are specifically tuned to the .308 cartridge. This rifle was made for rifles like the M1A and will do an amazing job of keeping you on target no matter the range. This is a solid scope for any M1A rifle.
3. Primary Arms PA4
If you are on a tighter budget but still want plenty of quality to ensure you get a usable scope, no company is going to beat Primary Arms. For an M1A SOCOM, Scout, or any other model, this is a perfectly adequate scope for a variety of ranges. It even comes with a three-year warranty to ensure it works for you.
While not a king in the optics world, Primary arms manages to produce quality optics for a price unbeatable by most companies. The optical quality is quite good with a high contrast, bright image at any range. This is mostly thanks to the oversized 52mm objective lens and good glass.
Where the PA4 shines is in its ruggedness. Shockproof to anything but a magnum cartridge, this scope can handle the .308 and then some. It is sealed against water and a treatment on the lenses ensures a fog-free interior anywhere you go. If it fails, they replace it.
While not a coveted optic, the Primary arms is solid and quite powerful. With a 4-14x magnification, you can easily get out to 800 yards and probably a little further with some skill. At least you will be able to see that far and your zero will be on. The rest is up to you.
No matter how you plan to use your M1A, these scopes should have you covered. Whether it’s a Scout or a Loaded model, all of these scopes should cover every eventuality. Mostly this is due to the amazing M1A rifle but having the best scope for it never hurts.
If getting that best scope for M1A rifles you won’t go wrong with the power, ruggedness, and sheer quality of these scopes. Of course, the more you spend the better you will get but even at the low end, these scopes beat anything you will find in a box store. They also beat anything you can find online short of multi-thousand dollar options.